Monday, June 30, 2008

Siner 99: Helles Lager

Yes its been out a while, but I haven't had a good chance to post on this particular beer. But what better chance then now when I'm trying to highlight good solid session beers. This particular beer has been released celebrating Shiner's 99th Birthday. They've released a few others, two that I've posted on in the past. Unfortunately these have been pretty hit or miss, however one was such a hit that its turned into a regular offering in the form of Shiner Black. Now on to this beer, Shiner 99 a Helles Lager.
The Beer: This one pours a dark straw colored with a decently sized white head, that dissipates relatively quickly. Some hop notes in the nose along with some pale malts. The hops are the nice mild hallertau and that's evident on the nose. Not the big grapefruit you get from American hops and that's appropriate for this style. The mouth has some nice bitterness up front with a mild malty sweetness on the finish along with a mild spicy character. Good depth of mouthfeel, there's no thinness here, which was my complaint with Shiner 98. A mild beer with a good depth of flavor, smooth but with a good amount of carbonation. A very good solid offering from little Shiner, Texas. This one gets a solid B from me. Here's what the folks at BA have to say.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Book Review: Grape VS. Grain

Recently there seems to be a big push to write articles, books, etc comparing Beer and Wine. Specifically promoting how beer is wine's equal. Heck, a few months back, Dogfish Head's own Sam Calagione released such a book with sommelier Marnie Old titled He Said Beer, She Said Wine. This book specifically talking about food pairings. A good book, however a new one has been released recently that goes beyond food pairings and really dives into the differences between wine and beer and what makes beer wines equal (if not superior in many cases). The author of the book is Charles Bamforth who is the Chair of the Dept of Food Science and Technology and Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences at U of Cal-Davis. I know that's a mouthful, but the point is, the guy knows beer and specifically brewing science. This book is not just beer vs. wine, but its purpose is to try and debunk myths of wine's superiority. His thesis I believe is the following quote of the book:
I [the author] seek to compare these two beverages on the basis of their history, technology, scientific and artistic appreciation, and impact on the body. To that extent, and reflecting on my professional speciality the theme of this book is primarily on of demonstrating how beer is a product of an excellence and sophistication to match wine, and I seek to do this my championing beer while being entirely fair to the other noble beverages.
A pretty noble thesis, and one that for the most part I feel he succeeded. The initial chapters discuss the components of wine and beer and then how each are created. This is really where the author hits his stride eloquently expressing how much more complex brewing is over wine making. The middle part of the book covers beer and wine quality and the various types. Nothing earth shattering here, covering things that most beer lovers will know (at least in regards to their favorite beverage). The last chapters of the book cover the health benefits of beer and the author ends on a high note here. Putting many studies all in one place he really does show that while there is nothing definitive on the health benefits of beer (nor truth be told is their of wine) beer is just as healthy as wine and does not deserve the derision it has received from various health nuts.
In conclusion, while many of the subjects within this book are covered in other places, the benefit of this book is capturing everything in one place while at the same time giving one something to fight back against your friendly oenophiles who tout the greatness and superiority of wine. This book gives one ample ammunition to fight back. There are periods of highly technical jargon that can bog down the reader, but over all its a fun and entertaining read. You will definitely learn something, if no more than how good and complex that glass of beer really is.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Local Breweries in the news

Houston is blessed with two breweries in the area. One is the oldest craft brewery in Texas and located in Houston, the other one is one of the newest breweries and is located North of Houston in Conroe. Both have been highlighted in local news outlets.
- First is this article in the Houston Chronicle on Saint Arnold's. Nothing really new other than after the big move next year Saint Arnold's will start holding tours during the week instead of just Saturday's.
- Secondly a feature from our local channel ABC 13 on the guys from Southern Star Brewing Company. Its nice to see a good feature on TV highlighting local craft beer.

Abita Strawberry Lager

Abita has always held a special place for me because along with Texas's own Shiner it introduced me to beers other than those from Bud, Miller, Coors. I went to university in Louisiana and was introduced to the greatness of dark beer with Turbodog, and fruity wheat beers with Purple Haze so I'm pretty familiar with Abita's regular lineup. However, last time I was in New Olreans, I was really surprised by the depth of their other beers Abita has released that never make it to the Houston area. Rumors have been that this is going to change and we are going to see more and more of Abita's other brews. Well it seems the rumors are true and I've seen their seasonal Abita Red (and Irish Red) and this one their Strawberry Lager.
The Beer: This one is a lager made with fresh local strawberry's (hint to TX Craft brewers: great idea to make a beer with fresh local fruit). The beer pours a very pale straw color with a pretty decent quarter inch bright white head. The nose is full of strawberry's along with lesser notes of hay, and lightly toasted bread. The mouth is full of carbonation, and an abundance of strawberry's with lesser notes of pale malts. There is no strawberry color, but the flavor is really there and brings a bit of tartness to the mouthfeel. Its a good beer. I'm not the biggest fan of fruit beers so unsurprisingly I'd liked to have seen some more lager-ish notes within the beer. Its a good crisp clean summer/spring beer. A decent session beer, because while not a potent beer, not sure how many of these I could drink in one sitting just due to the strawberry flavor and subsequent tartness. This one gets a B- from me. Here's what the folks over at BA think.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Session Beers

No this post is not about beers that I have talked about for the monthly Session. Instead I wanted to post on those beers that don't get a whole lot of love in the Beer Blogging universe. Those beers that are not high alcohol, high hops, high malt, heck high everything. These are not bombs of flavor, but relatively balanced flavors. Clean and crisp. Beers that you can have one, two, or even three in one sitting. These beers may not create conversation, but they don't get in the way of it either. They also happen to be beers that are perfect for a hot summer day in Houston. These are the pilsners, ambers, browns, etc that don't get the high rankings on Beer Advocate or other beer websites. I've come realize that while I drink these beers fairly often I have done a poor job of touting them and posting on them. That stops now. Over the course of the next few weeks I'm going to try and write up on as many of these tasty session beers as I can.
The first one just so happens to be local: Saint Arnold's Amber. While their Divine Reserve series is greatness, they also make some pretty solid every day brews.
The Beer: This is the definition of a session beer weighing in at 4.4%. It pours an orange amber color with a decent sized frothy white head. Notes of caramel, some floral hop notes (from the cascade hops used) and notes of copper. The mouth has bitter hops up front, smooth caramel notes at the finish. Great grilling beer and as with any session beer, great drinkability. My complaints would be that the beer is just slightly on the sweet side and I would have liked just a bit more effervescence. Other than that this is a fine beer and gets a solid B from me. Surprisingly the folks over at BA agree and give it pretty good marks

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Session #17 Announcement

Fresh off the round up from the Session 16 we get the announcement for this month's exciting event. For the uninitiated the Session is a monthly virtual beer testing, each hosted by a different blogger, and each with a different theme. On the first Friday of the month, after posting on that month's theme we send our posts to the host where they do a round up of all the tastings. Its a great time to learn about beers that I may never have had the opportunity to try.
With that, on to the anouncement. The host this month is Rob over at Pfiff a blog "about about tasting, brewing, history, culture, and general fermented grain goodness." Sounds like my kind of blog! The theme this month is Going against the Grain (or as I like to call it, the anti-season beer session). In his words:
Think of this as the unorthodox cousin of such topics as "beer and food" and "beer and music". Beer and weather, perhaps? More like beer despite the weather, I guess. Cracking open a Guinness on the beach, finishing a day of yardwork with a Speedway Stout, or whatever else you do that raises an eyebrow (again, beer-related, please), do us all a favor and take a few moments to share your non-conformist tale

Sounds fun, this is definitely one session that I'll be able to join in on rather enthusiastically. Due date is the first Friday of the July - the 4th. So go post and send them to Rob and he'll post his round up a few days later.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Some Big Saint Arnold's News

Fresh off their release of the fantastic Divine Reserve 6 Saint Arnold's put out a press release today concerning the future of their operations. From the Houston Business Journal it looks like Saint Arnold's will begin work on their new brewery starting next week. The new location is a 3 story facility built in 1914 located at 2000 Lyons Avenue. Saint Arnold's will have the capability to increase their output some 400%. While their current brewery has an output of 22,500 barrels the new place will have initial capabilities of 40,000 barrels with the possibility to expand to 120,000. HOLY CRAP, that's a lot of Divine Reserve. Another neat fact is that the new brewery will feature a new brewhouse purchased from a now defunct brewery in an old German Monastery. How cool is that.
I think this will be HUGE, not only for Saint Arnold's but for the city of Houston as this new brewery is much closer to downtown. If all goes as planned the opening of the new brewery will coincide with Saint Arnold's 15th Anniversary next June.
Personally I see only an upside here, as long as Saint Arnold's continues the steady expansion and doesn't try to move to fast, they should be able to keep up with demand while continuing to brew excellent and high quality beers. Great Job Brock and Co.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Saint Arnold's Divine Reserve 6

Well its been a LONG time coming, but the time has arrived. Saint Arnold's released their 6th Divine Reserve today and it just so happened that my local Spec's had some. I was able to quickly run by and grab a couple of six packs right after work (the beer guy there already reported they had gone through 6 cases in 90 minutes). This one is going to go FAST. As for the beer itself? I'll let Saint Arnold's founder Brock Wagner describe it:
This is a big, malty, hoppy barleywine. Yet all of the intense flavors meld together to create a well-balanced big beer. The nose has a strong resiny hop note. The taste starts with a combination of the malty sweetness and spicy hops with both flavors magnified by the high alcohol level. The spiciness carries through the middle and finishes with a satisfyingly dry bitter. It was brewed with 2 row pale, Caramunich and Special B malts with brown sugar added in the kettle and hopped with 225 lbs of Columbus hops including 44 lbs that were dry hopped. We used our Saint Arnold yeast strain which gives a rich, creamy mouthfeel to the brew. It is unfiltered and will clarify with aging.
225 lbs of hops? In this day and age of hop shortage? That's crazy talk. Well needless to say I couldn't wait very long to taste this one, so as soon as I got home today I had to try it.
The Beer: Poured the beer into a nice snifter glass, it weighs in at 10% and pours a cloudy brown amber with a nice taupe colored head. The nose is all hops here, full of citrus and piney notes with just a hint of caramel. The mouth unsurprisingly is more of the same; HOPPY, major grapefruit notes along with strong piney resin notes. However as hoppy as this bomb of a beer is its well balanced with a nice caramel malty sweetness, and vanilla notes. This one is extremely complex, but unexpectedly smooth and balanced. While a big powerful beer there is not a noticeable alcohol flavor. With the beer being unfiltered I think it gives it an almost chewy quality, which creates a nice textural experience. This ones a keeper, and while not as good as the amazing DR5, this one is damn good. It gets an A- from me. It seems like the folks over at BA agree.

Monday, June 09, 2008

The Session 16 Roundup: Beer Festivals

Dang that sure did sneak up on me. I completely forgot that last Friday was the first one of the month, meaning its Session time. I had forgotten because I've been in Florida this past week or so due to a wedding. A quick aside and no offense to anyone from Florida, but I was extremely disappointed in the beer scene there. I was in Orlando and its surrounding areas, but I couldn't find any place to get great beer. I stuck with Yueling (which isn't bad at all) but that's about as good as I could find. Anyways back to the Session. This month's theme was Beer Festivals and the hose was the Geistbear Brewing Blog. So head over there for his post on the round up.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Saint Arnold's Divine Reserver #6

YES! The announcement has been made. I just received the latest newsletter from Saint Arnold's and it contains the release date and style of their latest Divine Reserve. The style is a Hoppy American Barleywine. A little bit surprising to me since we are in the midst of a hop shortage. I do wonder if this will have an effect on the price. While DR's are normally higher than the average six pack, my money is on the fact that this one is even more expensive than others. The release date is the 12th and 13th of June. This one will go fast I'm sure. I can't wait.